One of my friends and former colleagues from Spectrum Weekly, Gordon Young, sent me a shocking e-mail today: Anne Clancy, who had been our editor at the paper back in 1990 and 1991, had been murdered a couple of days ago by the woman she had lived with for much, if not all, of the last 20 years or more.
It’s amazing how strongly we can be affected by events involving people we have not see in years… or in this case, decades.
Anne Clancy was my first editor after I got out of college and took my first real-world job as a reporter with the spunky, upstart alternative weekly paper Spectrum in Little Rock, Ark., in 1990.
I remember many things about her, but what perhaps stands out the most is that she placed before me a bar that was, to my young and inexperienced eyes, way too high. She wanted things out of me as a reporter that I wasn’t prepared to deliver. And she held me to that standard. She helped build in me a foundation of skills that would serve me in a two-decade career as a journalist, and she did so by simply never wavering when I hedged or whinged or tried to weasel out of making one more phone call or rewriting that lede one more time.
One of the most distinct memories I have of our relationship was the time I decided, after being there for probably six months, that I wanted a raise. I went and talked to the publisher, Stephen Buel, but he said I needed to talk to Anne for a recommendation. I went to Philip Martin, one of the other editors, but he said I needed to talk to Anne. I went to Karen Wannemacher, the co-owner, and she said I needed to talk to Anne. And I gave up, because I knew if I went to Anne, she would tell me what I was afraid to admit to myself: That I had only been doing an average job, certainly not good enough to warrant a raise, and I’d have to work a lot harder before she would recommend me for one.
It’s funny, looking back, how a 6’5″ guy like me could be so easily cowed by one look from a slight, gentle, and mild-mannered woman like Anne. But she had presence. In spades.
Anne was also one of the first lesbians I’d known, and the first truly politically correct person. She wasn’t quite the stereotype of the PC nitpicker, but she had her pet peeves; for instance, whenever I would use the term “girl” or “lady,” she would immediately interject “woman.” But aside from that, she cared more about making sure I was respectful in how I treated people in my stories, and that I made sure I knew where to find people with a wide range of viewpoints and life experiences. Valuable lessons, both.
Anne also gave me one of the most valuable pearls of wisdom I ever received as a journalist, one I have passed on to interns and newbies and colleagues countless times over the years: “Eric, you have to be like Alice in Wonderland – curiouser and curiouser.” I took her at her word, and developed that sense of endless curiosity, and it has served me better than almost anything else I have learned over the years. (In the same meeting, Buel told me that a reporter has to be “a nosy bastard” – advice which I have also put to use and shared over the years, but Anne’s version was far more my style.)
Gordon sent me a link to a blog by one of Anne’s friends. It is a touching remembrance of her, and includes a lot of information about where her life took her in the years after I lost touch. It’s worth a read. http://
Rest in peace, Anne. You deserved a better ending than this, but your immortality is safe in the hands of those who knew, respected, and loved you during your life. I am humbled to count myself among them.